Saturday, August 20, 2016

Dandelion Chocolate - San Francisco, CA

Dandelion Chocolate
740 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 349-0942
Drink menu and treats menu (These were kind of difficult to find on their website)

I lived in Berkeley for four years for undergrad, but I didn't go into the city (SF) all that often. During a break at a training in SF, I tried looking for foodie places I could try nearby. I had a few options in mind and spent a good deal of time looking at websites, checking store hours, reading Yelp reviews, and looking at pictures. I decided to try Dandelion, which I had actually never heard of until that day. Ohhh my goodness. If you love chocolate, you will love this place. You can even go on a tour and take classes! This is a small batch chocolate chocolatier with chocolate bars, drinking chocolate, hot chocolate, pastries, and special treats like toffee. They also had free samples!!
   ** Foodie note: It happens to be a couple doors down from Craftsman & Wolves! You know...where you can find a whole egg baked into your savory muffin! My friend, Grace, had just told me about this place.

Anyway, I got a few items for my family (parents and in-laws), including this beautiful dulce de leche bar ("Almond and hazelnut sable crust, dulce de leche layer, and chocolate caramel ganache"):
Delicious flavors. My only small critique is that the bottom was slightly harder than I would like. It was slightly difficult to cut and bite, but it wasn't teeth-breaking or anything.
Another shot of that dulce de leche bar
Just look at those options. I don't even know how I chose what I chose without buying two of everything. Recently someone from my newest favorite food show, Unique Sweets, said that she has ordered one of everything from a dessert menu before. Total desire and feeling validation.

I love drinking chocolate but have only had it twice now (once in New York at Marie Belle and now once at Dandelion), and it is just heaven. This one below (Marocchino: "European drinking chocolate topped with espresso and cocoa nib infused whipped cream") was exactly what I was hoping it would be: deep flavors, only slightly sweet toward the end, and topped with whipped cream...and then they made it even better with a free delicious cookie! I just wish it would be maybe five times bigger? Is that bad? I wonder how much I would have had if I had made it myself.
 Here's the bottom of my drinking chocolate:
And here's their "nibbun" ("Our version of a morning bun with Camino Verde chocolate custard and nibs. Rolled in cinnamon and nib sugar") below. Sooo good in flavor, texture, and sweetness. It actually is not at sweet as it looks in my opinion. You also have to be a fan of nibs and be open to its slight bitterness. If you're expecting chocolate chips all over, that's not what this is. There's definitely chocolate flavor everywhere, but it's less sweet than, for example, a morning bun loaded with chocolate chips or a chocolate babka. So delicious.
 I HAD to take a picture of the inside!! How beautiful is that?!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Kuppa Joy - Fresno & Clovis, CA

Kuppa Joy (Website)
Original location in Clovis:
518 Clovis Avenue
Clovis, CA 93612

Newer location in Fresno:
1900 N Echo Avenue
Fresno, CA 93704

I highly recommend this place!

I've loved everything about this place: The atmosphere, the friendly employees, the interesting menu options, the homemade-looking pastries, the latte/coffee art, and the delicious coffee. Another awesome fact about this place is that its founder is a Clovis native named Zack Follett, who played pro football for the Detroit Lions. He decided to bring back the joy of a coffee shop he visited in London to the Clovis/Fresno area with the goal of connecting to his community. He has also spread the love and joy of God through this business, which I think is an amazing thing whether or not you are a Christian. 

This cinnamon roll was sooo good warmed up, and it was just perfect with my coffee, which I'll describe below.

Sometimes I like to buy myself a pastry and a coffee (black if with a pastry) or just a coffee and enjoy them alone. I think it's perfectly fine to go to restaurants and cafes by yourself. One time at the UC Berkeley Crossroads dining commons I got breakfast or lunch by myself, and a peer saw me and made fun of me for being there alone. I believe he expressed his shock and then said, "That's sad." I was already slightly self-conscious about not having my usual floormates and friends from Units 1 and 2, but I didn't see anything wrong with being independent. Ever since that meal I decided it's not cool to make fun of people for eating alone. People do it all the time. If anything, it shows that you don't NEED others to be happy.
How can you resist?

"The Fire" pour over: I believe this is actually my first pour over. The idea is that the coffee is made individually for someone to drink. How you pour the water over the beans affects how the drink turns out. I guess it's like the idea of "small batch" chocolate and other delicious things. It's more personal and isn't made exactly the same for each person. Anyway, "The Fire" is a new menu option that's a Nicaragua/Brazil blend with a medium/dark roast profile. Kuppa Joy states that it has notes of "Campfire Smore // Toffee // French Toast," but my cousin (Eric) and I are not really sure how people identify these notes. I guess I could taste these flavors if I thought about it, but I'm guessing they just need a way to describe the flavor to people who are considering their options. Anyway, the main point is that I enjoyed this coffee very much and would order it again. I love darker blends, and this didn't taste bitter or burnt at all to me. Speaking of Eric, he's pretty much my go-to person for local and Bay Area food and drink recommendations. He also lived in SoCal, so I could always ask him about that area too. He strongly recommends the almond croissant from Kuppa Joy, which I was going to try yesterday, but they were out! I'll try again.
The Fire up close
Below is a Kuppa Joy I ordered from the Clovis location on 12/30/15 when my dear friend and former classmate and roommate (I forgot we took MCB together!), Kurtis, was in town. We used to study at libraries and cafes like FSM (Free Speech Movement Cafe) together while at Cal, and I even remember us waiting outside of a library for it to open on a Sunday. Nerdy much? Lol Who cares? I actually started to enjoy studying probably because of the good company and coffee. I conditioned myself well. This time we studied together again but for grad school/work instead of undergrad classes. Good memories. The Kuppa Joy is espresso blended‏ with chocolate and creme brulee-infused milk. Love it! Not too sweet. I could have ordered another one easily.
Kuppa Joy at the Clovis location
Below is a regular cappuccino from the Fresno location on Echo. Also delicious and just beautiful! I think latte art makes everyone happy and excited, and it's perfect for Instagram. :)

The pour over bar at the Clovis location
Inside the Fresno location
It says "Kuppa Joy," but you can't see the "y."

Monday, July 18, 2016

Cookiebar - Alameda, CA

1606 Webster Street
Alameda, CA 94501
Second location in Oakland)

Grace took me to this awesome ice cream/cookie/ice cream sandwich place in Alameda the other day when I visited the Bay Area. Check out their Yelp ratings if you don't believe me! Yum! We both thought their peanut butter chocolate pretzel ice cream was really good. Everything was good, although we both agreed that the Cinnamon Toast Crunch ice cream needed some more cinnamon flavor. It tasted exactly like whole milk leftover from eating a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch (except a little creamier than just milk), but it didn't have a strong cinnamon or Cinnamon Toast Crunch flavor. I'd definitely go back!

Peanut butter chocolate pretzel ice cream for me and Cinnamon Toast Crunch ice cream between a snickerdoodle cookie and an oatmeal cookie for Grace! Everything was delicious!

Oo..cookies 'n' cream cookies!
Even the font made me want to try their ice cream!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Frosting

OMG! I rarely post right after I make something, but I was SO excited about this recipe when I tried it yesterday that I had to post about this ASAP. I randomly stumbled on it while looking for a good vanilla cupcake recipe (I wasn't even looking for a frosting recipe!). If you like browned butter, YOU HAVE TO TRY THIS. It is so good and so easy to make.

Browning the butter
Note: You don't usually need to whisk anything while browning butter; just swirling it in the pan works, but I figured I should follow the recipe's instructions since this was my first time browning butter with vanilla bean specks in it!
My browned butter
You can see the browned butter bits AND vanilla bean specks!
Recipe here from Self Proclaimed Foodie (I made minor changes like using a hand mixer instead of a stand mixer)

* Note: Makes 2 cups or enough for 12 cupcakes (You can add more frosting on your cupcakes than I did; I was playing it safe and only adding the amount of frosting I usually prefer...although after finding this recipe I prefer more!!)
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise (I used 1.5 beans because that was what I had)
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk or half and half
  1. In a saucepan (medium heat), melt butter with vanilla beans (specks and throw in the leftover pods too). Whisk frequently. As the butter foams, continue whisking to release brown bits that may stick to the bottom. Once the butter has browned (once you start to see brown specks, the butter turns a brownish color, and it starts smelling more nutty), remove from heat. Remove vanilla bean pods from butter.
  2. Using the whisk attachment on a stand mixer or your hand mixer, beat cooled browned vanilla bean butter with the confectioner's sugar on medium speed.
  3. One tablespoon at a time, add milk (I used nonfat milk, but half and half or whole milk would work well, of course) & continue beating the frosting until you've reached the desired consistency.
In case you need a vanilla cupcake recipe too, I tried this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker and loved the flavor:

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard cupcake tin with paper or foil liners.
2. Beat together flour, sugar, baking powder, & salt w/ a mixer. Add butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat w/ a mixer at medium speed until smooth and satiny (about 30 seconds). Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth.
3. Divide batter evenly among cups of prepared tin & bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean (20 to 24 minutes).
4. Remove cupcakes from tin & transfer to wire rack. Cool cupcakes to room temperature before frosting.